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Tilapia Tacos with Avocado, Mango & Arugula

13 Aug

Tilapia Tacos with Mango and Avocado

Loving to cook and spending hours by a stove-top on a hot summer night do not necessarily go hand in hand.  While I like to limit my time in the kitchen on a really hot night, it never comes at the cost of a wholesome and appetizing meal.  The abundance of fresh seafood and superb summer produce are the perfect inspiration and ingredients for light, uncomplicated and exceptionally flavorful meals.

I recently came across Giada De Laurentiis’s Tilapia Fish Tacos with Arugula recipe and instantly feel in love with it. Giada’s recipe is an uncomplicated appetizer served up in wonton cups with a wasabi scented crème fraîche topping. I adapted her recipe to create a nifty summer night dinner that despite being economical and accessible is sophisticated and wholesome. Flakey Tilapia is flanked with sweet mango, creamy avocado, peppery arugula and a gently spicy Sirarcha kissed sour-cream topping.  Each of these delicious parts come together to create a nutritious taco that’s ideal for a hot summer night.  Continue reading

Clams Masala Wraps

1 May

Clams Masala WrapsMy husband recently surprised me with Chef Maneet Chauhan’s first cookbook: Flavors of My World. In this book Chef Chauhan takes principal recipes from 25 different countries and gives them her own magic touch with spices and flavors she grew up with. It’s a magnificent collection of recipes that have been nurtured with big bold flavors. I intend to cook my way through this book to savor all these mouth-watering International dishes that have been married with the spices that I love.

If you grew up in India, you may appreciate why Flavors of My World’s – Masala Coke Cuba Libre recipe resonated with me and brought back so many memories of my childhood. A chilled Coke (or even Indian Thums-Up) mixed with some chaat masala was the perfect accompaniment to any spicy meal. Chef Chauhan makes a grown up version of this by adding in some rum. Occasionally, in my growing culinary quest I am guilty of momentarily forgetting simple tastes that I so adored as a little girl. The Masala Coke Cuba Libra brought me right back to those flavors.

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Green Mango & Shrimp Salad

10 Apr

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Most foodies concur that a dish that harmoniously unifies savory, spicy, sweet, and sour truly gratifies our taste buds. This is probably why most people fall in love with Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian salads on tasting them. The dressings for most of these salads amalgamate fish sauce, chilies, lime juice and sugar – a true treat for the palate. I came upon this realization while creating this recipe, which is my third Asian Salad post in the last few months.   Continue reading

Thai Noodle & Chicken Salad

1 Oct

If you roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken for a meal, it’s extremely plausible that you are left contemplating about what to do with the leftovers. Leftover classic roast chicken is one of the most versatile ingredients that can be pieced into a multitude of recipes.

Last week I was working on creating a recipe of a fall inspired whole roast chicken (recipe to follow in a few weeks) and found myself with plenty of leftovers. I decided that we would use the leftovers in a chicken salad the following night. The next day I found myself overcome by an urge to indulge in some Thai food and opted to give the leftover chicken a Thai twist.

My favorite Thai salad is Yum Woon Sen Salad – a bean thread salad tossed with a tangy and spicy dressing and crunchy peanuts. The protein in the salad is typically shrimp and occasionally ground chicken or ground pork. I was confident that the cooked chicken would absorb all the wonderful flavors of the dressing and would make a great substitute for the shrimp.

I used Rasa Malaysia’s Yum Woon Sen(Thai Noodle Salad with Shrimp) Recipe, but made several modifications as I wanted to work with ingredients in my pantry and fridge. This is usually a first course, but it makes a delectable and well-rounded one pot entrée for 2 people.

Thai Noodle & Chicken Salad
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s Yum Woon Sen Recipe
Serves: 2 (as a main course), 4 (as a salad course)
Time: 20 minutes from start to finish

Salad Ingredients:

4 oz rice sticks/rice vermicelli (See note)
1 ½ cups of shredded cooked chicken
⅓ cup peeled and thinly sliced red onions (See note)
½ cup diced tomatoes
1 ½ tablespoon coarsely chopped mint leaves
1 ½ tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
2 peeled cloves of garlic, minced and fried
2 tablespoons of either roasted peanuts or fried noodles (See note)

Dressing Ingredients:

1 ½ tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of chili garlic paste (See note)
1 ½ tablespoons of lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons of light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of warm water

Notes:

  • Traditionally a Yum Woon Sen salad is made with cellophane or bean thread noodles. Feel free to use those, if you have them on hand.
  • If you do not like raw red onions, shallots are a great milder option.
  • Traditionally this salad is topped with slightly crushed roasted peanuts. I had a box of La Choy Fried noodles, so decided to use those instead. You can use roasted peanuts or fried noodles.
  • Chili Garlic Paste can be found in the international aisle of major grocery stores and in Asian markets.

Method:

1) Cook the noodles per the package instructions and set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, mix together all the dressing ingredients. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved.
3) Toss the shredded chicken in the dressing.
4) Place the cooked noodles in the bowl that you are going to serve the salad. To this add the onions, tomatoes, mint, cilantro, fried garlic, dressing and chicken.
5) Toss everything together to blend well. Taste and adjust the lime juice, chili garlic sauce or fish sauce as needed.
6) Top with the crunch of your choice (fried noodles or peanuts) and serve immediately at room temperature.

TANGY TILAPIA CURRY

25 Sep

“You are what you eat” – Nutritionist Victor Lindlahr

This commonly used phrase implies that to be fit and healthy you need to eat good food. Bearing this in mind, I ensure that we incorporate several of the “superfoods into our meals. “Superfood” is the marketing term often used to describe foods that are high in nutrients that bestow health benefits. Not only are these foods high in essential nutrients, but they are also very low in negative attributes such as saturated fats, contaminants and additives.

I choose to believe that eating “superfoods” which are lower in calories and high in rich and beneficial nutrients counteracts (at least to a certain extent) some of less healthy meals we devour.  It’s great to be a non-discriminating foodie, but it’s also essential to make healthful decisions along the way. This is why we eat fish for dinner at least once we week. Fish is often considered a “superfood” as it is a lean protein that is low in calories and high in Omega 3 fatty acids that are very beneficial for our bodies.

Since this is my first fish post, I want to share a fish recipe that reminds me of my childhood – one that’s made at my parents’ home on a regular basis. My mom uses Rawas (Indian Salmon fish) for this curry, but I use Tilapia as American salmon tastes quite different from the Indian kind.

Tilapia is a mild tasting fish and hence a great palette for the aromatic Indian spices and tangy tamarind. You can use any mild tasting white fish you like for this recipe. Traditionally, this fish curry is served with Basmati rice, but its bold flavors are delectable even when eaten by itself.

Tangy Tilapia Curry
Yields: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes from start to finish

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 large red onion, diced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
2 small tomatoes, grated (See note)
1 ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon red chili powder (See note)
1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin powder
1 teaspoon Garam Masala (See note)
4-5 curry leaves
2 seeded and finely chopped green chilies
2 cups of water
4 skinless tilapia fillets (or any mild white fish)
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate or paste
1-2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro for garnish

Notes:

  • To grate the tomatoes cut them in half across the width and remove the seeds with a paring knife. Use the larger side of a box grater to grate the meat side of the tomatoes. Discard the peels once done.
  • If you do not have red chili powder you can use cayenne.
  • Garam Masala is found in major chain grocery stores and Indian grocery stores. If you do not have a store-bought Garam Masala, you can easily make and bottle your own. Here is an easy Garam Masala recipe.

Method:

1) In a medium non-stick pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat
2) Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Stir the onions while sautéing them to ensure even cooking.
3) Once the onions are ready, add the ginger paste and garlic paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4) Add the grated tomatoes with a ¼ teaspoon of salt to the onions, garlic and ginger. Adding salt to the tomatoes helps them cook faster. Cook the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, till the oil separates from them. About 6-7 minutes.
5) Add all the dried spices and cook them for 2 minutes.
6) Now turn off the heat and let the above mixture cool a little. Once it’s cooled puree this concoction in a food processor or blender and set aside.
7) In a medium non-stick pot heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the curry leaves and green chilies and cook them for 2-3 minutes. Don’t let the curry leaves burn.
8) Add the onion-tomato puree that was set aside to this pot and cook till the puree turns to a reddish-brown color. This takes about 8-10 minutes.
9) Once the puree is the desired color, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of water and bring it to a rolling boil.
10) Once the water reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the tilapia fillets. Cover and let it simmer for 5-6 minutes or until the Tilapia fillets are fully cooked through and fork tender.
11) Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the tamarind paste.
12) Taste and adjust the salt, spice or tamarind paste. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately with a side of Basmati rice.

Indian Summer Tomato and Shrimp Orzo

14 Sep

If you live in the North East, summer is that time of the year when everyone and everything seems vivacious, buoyant and liberated.  It’s the time of the year to pack in barbecues, pool time, camping, movies under the stars and everything summer related before it all fades away. In our household summer includes consuming copious amounts of fresh summer produce and seafood.  While, a lot of summer produce and seafood is often found year-round, the quality and assortment are extremely disparate from when they are in season.

My summer menus are usually inspired by all summer produce, but my partiality towards TOMATOES is often a rather controversial topic in our home. This is the consequence of feeding my husband every conceivable version of a hot and cold tomato soup and tomato salad last summer, till he was “tomatoed” out! This year I had to tread carefully and find less blatant approaches of working tomatoes into our dinners.  I worked furtively to reposition tomatoes – the Queen of Summer Produce from being the meal to the background essence of most of our meals.

This recipe is the outcome of one of these covert experiments. The union of tomatoes with onion, garlic and ginger – the trinity of Indian cuisine gives a traditional Italian orzo an exotic and exciting twist. Versatile orzo absorbs the favors of the tomatoes and Indian spices creating a light and healthy one-pot dinner.

Indian Summer Tomato and Shrimp Orzo

Servings: 4 servings (1 cup per serving)
Active time: 30 minutes    Start to finish: 45minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked Orzo
26 uncooked medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
6-8 curry leaves, torn up if they are very large (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, 1 inch piece
3 cloves
2 green cardamoms
1 medium red onion, diced
2 green chilies, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 Hot House red tomatoes, grated (See Cooks’ note)
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons table salt, divided
Frozen Peas, ½ cup defrosted
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice

NOTES:

  • To grate the tomatoes cut them in half across the width and remove the seeds with a paring knife. Use the larger side of a box grater to grate the meat side of the tomatoes. Discard the peels once done.
  • Leave out the shrimp and increase the peas if cutting back on shellfish.
  • While this recipe can be made year round, it’s the best to make it in the summer when tomatoes and shrimp are at their best

METHOD:

  1. Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a 2 quart or larger pot. When the water is at a rolling boil add 1teaspoon of salt and the Orzo. Cook the Orzo stirring constantly. Cook till the Orzo is al-dente (firm to bite) about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a 4 quart heavy pot over medium heat till it shimmers. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop, about 1-2 minutes. Add the curry leaves if using them and cook for a minute. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the onions to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, green chilies and ginger and cook stirring, 2 minutes.
  4. Add the turmeric and chili powder along with 1 tablespoon of water and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes along with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook till the oil separates, about 4 minutes.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the shrimp and peas to the pot and cook till the shrimp is cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cooked Orzo and toss everything together for a minute.
  8. Add the lime juice, garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
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